Jadeja’s scalps were the first-innings centurions, Steve Smith and Travis Head. Nevertheless, the third day witnessed dropped catches, wickets off no-balls, and rash shots, culminating with Australia finishing at 123/4 in their second innings, a commanding lead of 296 runs.
As it happened: WTC Final, Day 3
Facing an uphill battle, India suffered an early setback when Scott Boland dismantled Srikar Bharat’s stumps with just the second ball of the day. With a deficit of 317 runs and only four wickets remaining in their first innings, India’s prospects appeared grim. However, Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur capitalised on Australia’s mistakes during a resilient seventh-wicket partnership of 109 runs.
Rahane exhibited fine form with a knock of 89, while Thakur contributed a vital half-century. Their performance propelled India past the follow-on total before eventually being dismissed for 296.
Australian captain Pat Cummins was instrumental for India’s fall in their first innings, taking 3/83 in his 20 overs. However, his figures could have been even more impressive had it not been for six no-balls. Australia’s scorecard showed 2/1 when David Warner, under pressure after a string of underwhelming innings, was caught behind off Mohammed Siraj.
Usman Khawaja, Warner’s opening partner, failed to make a significant contribution for the second time in the match. On 13, he carelessly edged a wide delivery from Umesh Yadav to wicketkeeper Bharat, becoming his first wicket of the final.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja then stepped up, removing the dangerous duo of Smith and Head. However, both batsmen played a part in their own dismissals. Smith, who had spent over five-and-a-half hours at the crease for his first-innings century, gifted his wicket for 34 by skying a drive off Jadeja to cover. Head, the architect of Australia’s strong position in the final with his dynamic 163, continued his aggressive approach but fell for a quickfire 18 as he miscued a shot against the turn, offering Jadeja a straightforward return catch.
At 111/4, Australia held a lead of 284 runs against an Indian side that missed the services of Ravichandran Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler. Ashwin was omitted in favour of an additional seamer.
During the course of the match, both Rahane and Thakur endured painful blows. Furthermore, Thakur was dropped twice while still in single figures, including a straightforward chance put down by Cameron Green at gully off Cummins’ bowling.
In an eventful session before lunch, Thakur survived an lbw appeal off Cummins as the batsman’s review revealed a no-ball. Rahane, who had previously escaped an lbw dismissal thanks to another Cummins no-ball, reached his half-century off just 92 balls with a beautifully timed six, prompting thunderous cheers from the Indian fans among the sun-drenched crowd of over 25,000.
However, Rahane’s hopes of reaching a century in his first Test in over a year were dashed when a brilliant diving catch by Cameron Green in the gully off Cummins’ delivery removed him for 89.
As the WTC final heads into its final stages, Australia maintain their dominant position despite the resistance put up by India and the impact made by Jadeja.
(With inputs from AFP)